Essay Writing Talk – Notes Write Up

Though I’m fairly comfortable with my essay writing skills from English A Level, it was actually quite helpful to refresh the important key points for writing a successful essay. I wrote up my notes from Paul’s powerpoint below as it helps me to remember pieces of information, and is useful as a reference to look back on later.

Main focus of the essay is how do images help support, explain or understand? All essays from now on should be approached as a visual writing piece.

A good essay:

  • Structure (conclusion, structured arguments)
  • Spelling not important, content is what matters
  • Concise (not rambling, have a secure focus)
  • Critical – evaluate arguments and evidence; clear presentation of own evidence and arguments leading to conclusion; recognition of limitations in own argument (eg. denotation vs assumed meanings of illustrations)


  1. Establish the question and its intent
  2. Outline how you will go about exploring the question – you can’t cover everything!
  3. Define key concepts and ideas. Present theories that help examine concepts/ideas.
  4. Present one case – use (visual) examples. Analyse and consider in relation to the question
  5. Present further (opposing?) cases. Evaluate the argument so far each time
  6. Conclude your argument. What have you found? What is the possible answer/s to the original question. Can make generalisations on suggest possible answers.


  • Contemporary illustrators should be the main research focus for all essays
  • Find multiple examples to support your case
  • Evaluate the position of the artist in relation to their contemporaries/historical (more weight on contemporary world)
  • Look closely at the image, what is really going on? How successful was the message they were trying to communicate?


  • Gather numerous examples
  • Visual research is very important
  • Read what others have written about contemporary illustration, artistic practices, wider social issues – Varoom/Varoomlab, It’s Nice That, creative reviews, illustration/design blogs
  • Be careful of sources – are they reputable? Do they have an angle/special interest in promoting a viewpoint?
  • You have the right to challenge the opinion of others – just because it is in a book it doesn’t make it true; critically question others.


  • Keep them short, paraphrase long quotations
  • Contextualise the quotation, what they’re trying to say
  • Engage with, explore meaning, agree or disagree
  • Don’t put in the quote for the sake of it
  • Bold/italics to highlight key phrases or passages
  • Integrate into sentences where possible

Pronouncements and Polemics:

  • Avoid making crusading campaigns for or against an issue
  • Precise in statistics and dates
  • Email illustrators asking for motives, ask right questions (but make questions different/interesting)
  • Don’t go over the top with using Thesaurus
  • Replacing words to hide plagiarism can be spotted – make sure quotations and sources are explicitly included


  • Don’t introduce any new content on themes
  • Keep concise, about 200 words
  • Refer to each paragraph/topic to review findings
  • Not evaluation of your project or time management – keep this for a separate blog evaluation


  • Check latest library referencing guide
  • Quotes, paraphrases, key concepts all in reference list
  • Alphabetical by author’s surname
  • No separate headings, just one long list
  • Bibliography ≠ list of references (?!) – reference list only contain sources that your essay directly references. Add books that you have read but not quoted in the bibliography.
  • If referencing from Wikipedia use sourced links wherever possible

My next step…

Focus down on solid concept: are zoos helpful? Difference between zoos and wildlife centres? Compare experiences. How does this relate to illustration?


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s